Art By Brian Zhou
What’s Firestone? How do I get to the HAWC? Where can I find the CCB? What’s convocation? Why does everyone say the first-year dorms are so bad?
Questions like these often linger in the minds of the 119 transfers within the 754-student class of 2022 — a number according to Stacey Montgomery, associate dean for transfers and commuter students. With many coming from community colleges, most have not had the typical four-year college experience of living in dorms, attending sporting events and being involved with clubs and Fraternity and Sorority Life.
The typical transition for Pepperdine transfers includes a busy first week of touring campus, meeting with current transfer students and participating in exclusive events like Transfer Breakaways, a weekly event where transfers come together for fellowship and free food. However, virtual New Student Orientation for transfers looked different this year.
“In a regular NSO, you just do it for a week, so when that happens, we have a bunch of events that are just for transfers as opposed to only two during virtual NSO,” said Sergio Gallardo, student advisory intern for transfers and commuter students.
Though the virtual modality had compromised how a typical NSO would go, Pepperdine should still provide opportunities for safe, in-person events held in a normal semester like Transfer Breakaways as the campus begins to reopen. Along with changes made to NSO, transfers have faced another big change to their campus housing plans.
All transfers must live on campus for their entire first academic year with the exception of spring transfers who must only live on campus for the spring term when they begin at Pepperdine, according to the Residency Requirement.
In their first year at Pepperdine, junior transfers have missed their window of opportunity for guaranteed on-campus housing due to COVID-19. Considering first-year and sophomore students receive priority when it comes to housing, seniors are generally considered last. With most seniors typically living off-campus in their final year and spring semester still following virtual modality, many junior transfers will likely graduate without ever living in the dorms.
The Residency Requirement also states, “National and Pepperdine studies have shown that students who live on campus have higher grades, higher graduation rates, and higher satisfaction levels with their campus experience.” With this knowledge of the number of positive impacts for students living on campus, it makes it more difficult for junior transfers to fathom the idea of missing out on that chance.
“For transfers who were able to be in person, it’s like night and day,” Fountain said. “Because you get to be on campus, you get to meet people, you get that experience firsthand. It’s not behind a computer screen.”
The experience of being a transfer student during online learning at Pepperdine comes with a unique disconnect. When a classmate mentions places like Payson Library or Elkins Auditorium, the disassociation of knowing what those locations are but never having actually been there leaves transfer students feeling like outsiders in their own school.
Pepperdine culture deeply revolves around the building of community, but it’s easy to not feel like a member of that community when the extent of a transfer student’s experience comes exclusively from Zoom.
Without anything else to compare what a “normal” semester at Pepperdine is supposed to look like, transfers find it more challenging to adjust to online learning. Fellow peers can provide insight into what Pepperdine’s academia was like before COVID-19, but that doesn’t equate to firsthand experience.
Amidst virtual learning, there’s a unique circumstance of isolation exclusive to transfer students — a disassociation characterized by not having a school ID and never having set foot on campus.
Academics aside, joining clubs and organizations can be overwhelming to navigate in a virtual context. With a lack of extracurricular involvement, feeling like a genuine member of the Pepperdine community is arduous.
Montgomery offers a word of advice for how transfers can feel more immersed in the Pepperdine community.
“Join a club, just one club,” Montgomery said. “Find one way outside of your class where you’re able to pursue your passions or interest.”
Pepperdine did establish some accommodations to the online environment to welcome transfer students such as the Virtual Transfer Club Convocation. Moving forward, Pepperdine needs to implement more typical transfer events from a regular semester in the coming weeks to promote a higher degree of safe, in-person transfer inclusion as the campus begins to reopen.
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